How to Get the Best Prices on Home Improvements

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how to get the best prices on home improvementsNow more than ever, people want to get the most for their home improvement dollar. There are definitely great deals to be had, but to get the best prices, you have to know where to look.

Some of the surprises on this journey? It isn't always cheaper to do it yourself, and some bigger-ticket products can actually pay for themselves before you know it. Get ready to save money with these tips on how to get the best prices on home improvements.

Plan, plan, plan: No matter what the size or scale of your renovation, an up-front investment in product research and project planning will save money later. Take time to comparison shop for the best deals on fixtures, find out what finishes will look great and actually make sense for your lifestyle, and source everything you'll need well before you actually need it.

Be honest about your own project abilities: While tackling a project yourself can sometimes be a money-saver, DIY isn't always the most cost-effective way to go. Ask yourself if you really have the experience, the tools and the time to do the work at hand, because that choice can impact far more than the success of one project.

"For homeowners, their home is typically their biggest investment," says Jeff Kaliner of Power Home Remodeling Group in Chester, PA. "Projects that change a home's structural integrity, energy efficiency and even visual appeal can drastically change its value. Before investing time and money in trial and error, homeowners should consider calling a professional to guarantee a high-quality result."

Find the right help for the job: If professional home improvement help is what you need, eliminate the possibilities of wasted money and never-ending work by hiring a contractor who's licensed, insured and highly recommended by people you trust. You'll also save by choosing a specialist for the job when specialized skills and craftsmanship are what your project requires.

Get apples-to-apples estimates: There's often a huge gulf between what a contractor thinks they've heard you say and what you've actually asked for, so save everyone time and secure realistic project estimates by preparing detailed specs for the pro. That includes everything from the space to be renovated to the finish colors and fixture models to be used. This is one point where early research pays off, and you'll have apples-to-apples estimates to review if you give the same information to each contractor bidding on the job.

Also be ready with the details when bidding out smaller projects. Services like Mr. Handyman provide customers with checklists to be completed for project estimation, and occasionally, the customer will also need to supply selected fixtures or finishes. So it's smart to have the pricing information for these ready to go so you can calculate the real bottom line after the labor estimate arrives.

Choose quality products: You definitely get what you pay for, and when you invest in quality, you'll also get better returns in terms of product life, integrity and appearance. You'll also spend less by installing the best the first time versus improving on the cheap and having to do it all over again in a few years. Before you dive into the bargain bin, realize that whatever price-slashed item you've spotted is probably discontinued for a reason.

Make the most of reclaimed building materials: Recycling saves unique, usable goods from landfills and can also save you money. Hunt down reclaimed lumber and other reusable building materials to add interest and provide a fresh look with yesterday's resources.

Invest in energy efficiency: Improvements that provide energy efficiency pay for themselves before you know it. Go green by installing WaterSense fixtures, Energy Star rated windows and appliances, and insulation products that don't require too much time or effort but offer big rewards. You'll thank yourself as your utility bills dip downward and the tax incentives and rebates come rolling in.

Tom Kraeutler is a home improvement expert for AOL Real Estate and host of "The Money Pit," a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program offering home improvement tips and ideas.

Thinking about adding value with home improvements? Here are some AOL Real Estate guides to help you, whether you're selling or staying.

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